January 11, 2008

New Guidelines Developed To Save Lives Of Infants

Researchers in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, India, Pakistan and South Africa have developed a checklist of seven symptoms used to spot severe illnesses in newborn infants.

The seven clinical signs on the checklist include:

1. temperature below 35.5 C (95.9 F)
2. temperature above 37.5 C (99.5 F)
3. difficulty in feeding
4. history of convulsions
5. breathing rate equal or greater than 60 breaths per minute
6. movement only when stimulated
7. severe chest indrawing

In a recent Lancet article, the researchers said the new checklist represents an improvement over previous guidelines that did not include infants less than one week old.

"Anyone looking after children, mothers, should know that if children are not feeding well, it is a sign of serious illness, they should take it to care," said Martin Weber of World Health Organization in Jakarta.

"It seems very simple, but these are messages we need to promote more widely.  If the baby is not moving spontaneously and only doing so when you touch it, that should alert you that the baby has problems," Webers said during a Reuters phone interview.  

In developing the new guidelines, the researchers began with a checklist of 31 symptoms used by first-line medical professionals to spot severe illnesses in 8,889 infants brought to clinics in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, India, Pakistan and South Africa.

Weber's team then compared these appraisals against decisions made by doctors, and found the assessments were reliable even after the list was narrowed down to these seven symptoms.

Worldwide, four million infants die each year within the first month of life, the majority within the first week.  The principal causes are bacterial infections, premature birth, and complications during birth.